I go to the armoire first. It is a large pine one. There are three shelves inside, and each is filled with stacks of t-shirts, undergarments, scarves, sweaters. Mostly white. My sister was a woman who often wore white.
I remove a stack of t-shirts and go through them. Tears are miles away. I did my weeping earlier that morning. As I look over her clothes I am emotionless. My mind is fixated on practicality: Do I like it. Does it fit? Do I need it? I am reminded of something my father once told me when I was selling my first condo. “Don’t be greedy,” he said.
The room has wide windows which let in the sunlight through sheer white curtains that are as delicate as dove wings. The bedspread is white. There is a table with two books on it. I pick up one of the books. You Are Not Alone. It is a collection of wisdom by women dealing with cancer. I open the book and read a passage which my sister has highlighted in green: I believe that love motivates you, faith inspires you, and forgiveness keeps you a step ahead. I place the book back on the dresser, my fingers fluttering its cover as if fluttering her soul.
I try on her clothes. Take them off. I might as well be in some exclusive boutique opened only for me. I keep asking myself if I really need it. If not, leave it for someone else. It is all a matter of practicality for me. I am absent of sentiment.
By the time I return back downstairs a small drizzle has started. We sit in the bright living room where I sit on the couch where Diana always sat. Jean-Louis talks about Mexico and a house exchange in France.
Before my sister died Jean-Louis was in the process of exchanging his house in the country and my city apartment for a house in Southern France. I am not so sure I want to do this anymore. Part of the motivation for these trips was being with my sister. But this I do not tell Jean Louis. He is hurting enough.
When I reach home that evening I talk to Steven a man I recently met on one of the online dating sites.
There is a saying that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a life time. Steven has come into my life for a reason. I met him just before my sister died, when she was in the intense care unit. Stephen used to be a nurse in ICU and he tells me, “Nurses who work in ICU are the best trained nurses. You can be certain that your sister is getting the best of the best.”
I tell Steven that I sometimes feel like I have no emotions.
“I hate this coldness in me,” I say.
“I cried more for my cat than I did for my mother when she died,” he tells me.
The next day, I relate this to my therapist. “It is probably less painful to touch the loss of his cat than that of his mother,” she tells me.
5 thoughts on “Excerpt From Selecting Clothing”
Numbness often feels like coldness – it’s nature’s way of protecting us until we are ready to feel again. One day the floodgates will open and emotion will overwhelm. We need to be strong enough to withstand it.
This, is engaging with the reality that makes you who you are.
It takes courage to write about this. You have courage.
A sensitive and moving piece.
Thank you for reading, Sheri. There are many stages to grief and I tried to document the stages I went through in the year after my sister’s death. It is already five years since she passed away – a sharp reminder that time does indeed go by very quickly and not to waste it.
So true. Grief can tear us apart if we haven’t brought it out into the open and examied each part of the process. It takes some of us longer than others to swing back into what some call living life.